by Tara Pederson

Americans are making a some changes in the food they eat and/or how they prepare it because of the coronavirus pandemic,
 according to the “2020 Food & Health Survey.”
The survey looked back on trends from the past 10 years, which show a growing emphasis on the healthier foods.  Among those who have made any change, the biggest is that 60% of Americans report cooking at home more.
Where folks purchase and eat their food has a big influence on how concerned they are about food safety. Half of consumers are concerned about the safety of food that was prepared outside their homes, almost as many are concerned about food safety when shopping for groceries online shopping for groceries in-store and preparing meals at home.
I can’t say all this concern is ill founded, or cite a single reason why cooking at home is a bad idea. For better or worse,  at least you know exactly how your food is being treated.
Today vs. a decade ago
Trends in food attitudes and behaviors since 2010 have remained relatively stable. Taste is the #1 priority, followed by price, health, convenience and sustainability.  When you examine it, that is a tall order from every angle.  And why shouldn’t it be? What we put in our bodies should always be of high concern.
An increasing focus on healthfulness over the past 10 years may correlate to a growing number of people who say they’re following a specific diet — from fad diets to doctor’s orders.
When looking at specific foods, consumption of protein from plant sources, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives increased in the past year,, with 1/3 of us eating more protein from plant sources.
The significant increase in plant-based options may be due in outright assumption.. More than 2/5 of  consumers assume a product described as “plant-based” would be healthier than one that is not, even if it had the exact same Nutrition Facts label.
Aligned with an increased emphasis on healthfulness comes rising awareness of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans over the past 10 years. In 2010, just 23% of consumers said they were familiar with the guidelines. This year, that number stands at 41%. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap in awareness by health status: 49% in excellent/very good health know at least a fair amount about the DGA versus just 29% who are in poorer health.
Maybe, in all of this clamor and social awareness, it would be a great service to every community, from school lunches to long term care, to prioritize nitrition and food education.   Giving the basics of life is important on its own.  Giving the facts that go with it, and empowering people to make the best choices they can for themselves when it comes to food, is not at all a far cry from putting the food in their hands. Every kindness matters.  And every piece of real information is valuable.
Why are you making the eating choices you are these days?  Are they different now? If so, how and why?
I leave you with a few basic healthy cooking tips-
*Choose healthy fats and proteins when possible. (Fish, legumes and beans, plant based oils and small amounts of dairy).
*Dressings and sauces are not sins, and are sometimes palate savers.  Ingredients like vinegars, mustards, different dried spices and fresh herbs make for quick, healthy, affordable combinations to keep your lean meats and fresh vegetables from being too boring.
*Carbs contribute to brain development and function as well as muscle development.  They aren’t evil.  And they are affordable ways to flesh out meals.  But don’t rely on them, and allow for smaller servings of them as a rule.
*Sometimes frozen and/or cooked ingredients are actually healthier than their fresh or raw counterparts.   I won’t bog things down by listing them here.  Instead,  I STRONGLY encourage to develop genuine curiosity and enthusiasm about your ingredients.   This doesn’t equate to you morphing into an unbearable walking nutrition encyclopedia.   It just means sometimes your preparation practices make a major difference.